Lupus Research Institute Enthusiastically Supports Plans to Reduce Ethnic and Racial Health Disparities Announced by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

The Lupus Research Institute and its National Coalition of state and local organizations welcomes the two strategies announced today by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to strengthen and expand community-led efforts to achieve health equity across the nation.  The Lupus Research Institute (LRI) has worked closely with the HHS Office of Minority Health for several years in creating and funding a nationwide effort – The Lupus Initiative – designed to reduce barriers to care through programs to educate health professionals about lupus diagnosis and treatment.

Racial and ethnic minorities continue to lag behind in many health outcome measures, with less preventive care overall, greater likelihood of developing serious illnesses—and then more limited access to quality health care. 

 “The LRI National Coalition applauds the aggressive measures being taken by HHS and the Office of Minority Health to address the disparities in access to quality care and healthy living choices for so many people,” said the institute’s president, Margaret Dowd. “A large percentage of the 1.5 million Americans with the chronic autoimmune disease, systemic lupus, are Black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, or of other racial and ethnic backgrounds—and will be affected by the plans set forth today.”

The HHS Action Plan to Reduce Health Disparities proposes goals and actions to reduce health disparities among racial and ethnic minorities, and the National Stakeholder Strategy for Achieving Health Equity from the “National Partnership for Action” coordinated by HHS and the Office of Minority Health sets forth a strategy for public and private sector initiatives and partnerships to help ethnic and racial minorities become as healthy as possible.

“For the first time, the United States has a coordinated road map designed to give everyone the chance to live a healthy life,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in a statement. Secretary Sebelius met with patients, advocates, and community leaders in East Harlem on the day of the announcement. “We all need to work together to combat this persistent problem so that we can build healthier communities and a stronger nation.”

“It's time to close the gap in health disparities,” added Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health, Garth Graham, M.D.

Action in Lupus

Because lupus is more prevalent in racial and ethnic minorities, and often more severe and even fatal in these populations, the LRI National Coalition has worked for more than a decade to combat health disparities, regularly briefing Congress on the topic and collaborating with other national organizations to further the agenda of equal access to quality care.

Through strong advocacy at HHS and in Congress, the LRI National Coalition helped to conceive and launch the “Eliminating Health Disparities in Lupus Initiative” to combat inequities by improving disease recognition and management of lupus—as well as educating physicians on the disease—among racial and ethnic minorities.

And through model lupus outreach centers (“Lupus Cooperatives”) in New York City and Los Angeles, Coalition members nationwide actively address the need for increased awareness, support, and access to quality medical care for people with lupus in underserved urban centers.